Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine developmental enamel defects and dental caries in very low birth weight adolescents with high risk (HR-VLBW) and low risk (LR-VLBW) compared to full-term (term) adolescents. Methods: The sample consisted of 224 subjects (80 HR-VLBW, 59 LR-VLBW, 85 term adolescents) recruited from an ongoing longitudinal study. Sociodemographic and medical information was available from birth. Dental examination of the adolescent at the 14-year visit included: enamel defects (opacity and hypoplasia); decayed, missing, filled teeth of incisors and molars (DMFT-IM) and of overall permanent teeth (DMFT); Simplified Oral Hygiene Index for debris/calculus on teeth, and sealant presence. A caregiver questionnaire completed simultaneously assessed dental behavior, access, insurance status and prevention factors. Hierarchical analysis utilized the zero-inflated negative binomial model and zero-inflated Poisson model. Results: The zero-inflated negative binomial model controlling for sociodemographic variables indicated that the LR-VLBW group had an estimated 75% increase (p < 0.05) in number of demarcated opacities in the incisors and first molar teeth compared to the term group. Hierarchical modeling indicated that demarcated opacities were a significant predictor of DMFT-IM after control for relevant covariates. The term adolescents had significantly increased DMFT-IM and DMFT scores compared to the LR-VLBW adolescents. Conclusion: LR-VLBW was a significant risk factor for increased enamel defects in the permanent incisors and first molars. Term children had increased caries compared to the LR-VLBW group. The effect of birth group and enamel defects on caries has to be investigated longitudinally from birth.

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